Excerpt for The Great Escape: The Inside Story of the Dannemora Prison Escape by , available in its entirety at Smashwords


THE GREAT ESCAPE

The Inside Story of the

Dannemora Prison Escape

Paul “Doc” Gaccione

Brighton Publishing LLC

435 N. Harris Drive

Mesa, AZ 85203

WWW.brightonpublishing.com

ISBN13: 978-1-62183-447-2

Copyright © 2016

eBook

Smashwords Edition

Cover Design: Tom Rodriguez

All rights reserved. This is a work based on a true story. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Dedication

I dedicate this book to the memory of:

My nephew, Joseph Gaccione, Karla Borelli; Louis Morella, Carmine Tirone, James LaFaso, Jr., Don Platten, Jr.

Sam Stellatella

Acknowledgement

Kim Orefice Kist, who’s tireless efforts were a major reason why I was able to have accomplished writing my last three books.

Special Gratitude

John Liuzzi, Ron Kist

Tom Ciardella, Sam Stellatella

John Gaccione, Mark Gaccione

Marie Platten, John Gaccione, Jr.

Gina & Charlie King, Louise Kuhnle

Roe & Jim LaFaso, Todd & Ken Doviak

Publisher’s Note

This book contains the author’s original unedited words as written.

Never before has man had such capacity to control his own environment, to end thirst and hunger, to conquer poverty and disease, to banish illiteracy and massive human misery. We have the power to make the best generation of mankind in the history of the world.

~JFK

Introduction

From the Author

This is a book that has been written by a man that according to the FBI and New York Organized Crime Task Force, is a leading member of the mafia. Paul “Doc” Gaccione was arrested, accused of murder, and spent six months in Rikers Island until he was released on a one-million-dollar bail.

He was arrested and convicted of being the driver in a mafia hit that they say occurred 20 years before his arrest. The day of his arrest, he was sitting at his desk in his home writing his first book, “Beyond the Beyond,” My Journey to Destiny.

Despite having never read a book in its entirety, and having no literary or writing skills, he was inspired to write his first book based off some special occurrences that took place in his life. That book was published and hit the Amazon bestseller list in the spiritual category.

He then was inspired to write his second book, “Mysteries and Beliefs,” which he then held up from being published because he had gotten the insight to reorganize that material. He plans to have that book published 6 to 8 months from the release of this book.

He then penned his third book, “The Godfather of Souls,” which Barnes and Noble gave a 5-star rating. The author was coined with that name, Godfather of Souls, from a featured story that the New York Post had done on his first book.

What makes this author and his book so special, so unique, is that for the first time we are getting a glimpse not into the Hollywood glamour of an accused member of the mafia, but a glimpse into the man himself, in his own words. That is very rare and, in this case, it happens to also be an incredible story.

His story will sweep you into not only his world, but also his book, as effortlessly as only the finest master storytellers can. Writers like this – and books like this – are very rare, not only because of who he is, but because of the scope of what he has written.

At the time of this books release, he has been confidently waiting for his appeal decision.

Foreword

From the Author

This is a book telling of the famous prison escape that took place in Upstate New York at the infamous Clinton Correctional Facility located in the village of Dannemora.

Since the opening of Clinton prison in 1845 it has earned the reputation of being the toughest and most harsh of all the prisons in New York State.

Clinton prison is considered the disciplinary prison of the New York State prison system. The majority of the prisoners being sent to Clinton prison are looked at as the worst of the worse.

Clinton prison had gained the reputation of being unescapable being that there had never been a successful escape in the modern-day history of the prison.

What gave the escape from Dannemora such National attention was because the escapees were extremely dangerous and feared killers. For almost a month, no one from the North Country was able to rest or feel safe while those two dangerous prisoners were at large.

What is going to make this book so special is that you’re going to get the inside story from the author, who is presently serving a twenty to life sentence here at Clinton. You’re also going to get a picture of what the atmosphere was like at the prison during those tense 22 days.

You will also be getting opinions and comments from the prisoners that were serving their time at Clinton during the escape.

The uniqueness of this book is that along with the story of the prison escape the author will be telling of his personal journey to destiny. You the reader, will also be getting an in-depth picture of what it would be like serving a sentence in a maximum prison.

As incredible as you may find all the events leading up to the prison escape, you may even find many of the signs that the author is experiencing as even more incredible as he proceeds on his journey to destiny.

The Story

After the shackles were put around my ankles and the handcuffs fastened around my wrist a correctional officer helped me up the steps and onto the bus that was headed to Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora. It seems like every time those handcuffs are put on me I get an itch in an area where I couldn’t reach and scratch. That really drives me crazy, it’s a time when you need a strong mind.

As other inmates were being escorted onto the bus, I began to reminisce from when I was convicted of being a member of the mafia and part of a mob hit. I had just spent the last thirteen months of my life at Auburn Correctional Facility.

This prison is not only the oldest prison in the State of New York, but also the oldest prison in the Country. What makes inmates consider Auburn the worst of all the maximum prisons in the State of New York is that all of their facilities are outside.

When you need to use the phone, take a shower, watch TV, go lift weights, go to commissary, or just spend recreation hanging out talking to other inmates, it’s all done outside. You may say that during the summer months that this is no big deal, but when you think of the winter months in Up-State New York where it gets below zero on many days, the situation becomes quite difficult.

Also, Auburn Prison is one of only a few maximum prisons that is not a TV facility. What I mean by that, TV facilities allow you to buy a 13-inch flat screen color TV in commissary and the prison offers a cable TV hook up right in your cell.

As bad as I wanted to be placed in a TV facility, I was quite confident that I would be, especially because I knew the odds were about 80 percent in my favor that I would be placed in a TV facility.

I remember how heart broken and despondent I felt, I had a great concern how I was going to be able to handle being caged in a 6 by 10-foot cell all the time, especially being that I’m not a reader despite writing my first book, “Beyond the Beyond” My Journey to Destiny that hit the Amazon best-selling list for a while.

As I look back on my destiny it was meant to be the way it turned out. During my time at Auburn Prison I was able to complete writing my second book, “Mysteries and Beliefs” which I had started on the street. I also was able to have the opportunity to have written my third book, “The Godfather of Souls,” which is a prison story without the distractions of a TV.

When the time came that I was eligible to request a transfer, because I had put in the necessary time at Auburn without being given a disciplinary ticket, I found the decision tough to make if I was going to request a transfer.

All my family and friends were trying to encourage me to make the transfer to a TV facility, and despite me knowing how bad I wanted a TV, now that I had the opportunity, I questioned if I should make the move.

The reason was that I was quite blessed the way things turned out during my stay at Auburn. It started out that I had a spotlight put on me from both the correctional officers and inmates alike for being some kind of high profile mobster. I guess having a book published perhaps added to that.

I must say that as time went by I became a very respected inmate from the correctional officers. I believe that to be true with most of all the inmates also. I believe that I was able to achieve this from taking advantage of being in the spotlight by mentoring many of the young inmates.

I was also fortunate when I arrived at Auburn prison that the program committee ruled, because of my age, that I didn’t have to take any programs or job that was mandatory for all inmates. So that gave me extra time for my writing, and helping many of the inmates.

When I finally made the decision to be transferred to a TV facility, as I was sitting with my counselor, he told me that I had to give him my request then and there on which facility I wish to be transferred to. At that moment, the only prison that I could think of that for sure was a TV facility was Clinton prison, so I said, “Clinton,” little did I know that it was a disciplinary prison.

How ironic that the two prisons that I wound up in are both disciplinary prisons. What I mean by that is most inmates that are sent to either Auburn or Clinton are coming there straight from the box.

These are prisons that have the reputation of being strict because they have many of the problem inmates. I have no doubt that it was destiny that sent me to these two prisons because this is where my work is. When inmates hear me tell how I requested to come here they all make fun of me. They say, “You’re the only person that actually requested to come to Clinton in Dannemora.”

As I was getting off the bus after we arrived at Clinton, I was questioning if I made the right decision. I said to myself, “I was so fortunate at Auburn, how could I get so lucky again?” The first half hour we were put in a holding cell until we saw a sergeant, which was the procedure before we were able to get our property and be assigned a cell.

When I was called into the sergeant’s office, the first words out of his mouth were, “Have a seat you Guinea bastard,” as he started to laugh while he was holding my records in his hands. He then opened my file, glanced at it and then said, “I want you close to me, I want to put you as a lower F porter, and all you will have to do is a little light dusting.”

I was just ready to respond by saying, “I don’t work, all my time I spend is on my writing,” but then something told me to shut my mouth and see what he was talking about. He then said, “I’m going to send word to the program committee that I want you as my lower F porter so you’re close by me.”

After leaving his office, close by was a table and there was an officer and also a few inmates that were giving the inmates that had just arrived their property. As I approached the table there was this inmate named Joey that said to me, “Your name is Doc?” When I replied, “Yeah” he said, “I was waiting for you, I have the sheet with the names of the new arrivals, and I noticed your name, I know a few of your friends.”

From his facial features and his olive skin, along with his New York City, Brooklyn accent and his mannerism, I had no doubt that he was Italian. He was of average height and looked to be in pretty good shape for being sixty-two.

As he talked I just stood there and listened, he then said, “I’ll come see you shortly, as soon as they assign you to your cell.” When I walked into my cell my heart was broken, the blood rushed to my head and I said to myself, “What did I do,” as I looked at this empty cell with just this one tiny rusty broken locker.

There was no large shelf that went from one wall to the other like at Auburn. That shelf was so important to be able to put your can foods and property on. There was no desk with drawers that I was so use to having, especially that it was so important for all the hours that I put into my writing.

I was also despondent after arriving and hearing from one of the porters that the block that I was going to had just went to commissary. That meant I would have to wait another two weeks before I could go to the store.

I also heard that when you go to commissary and want to buy a TV, you have to order it and it takes two weeks before you get it. So, I was looking at one month the earliest before I would be watching TV. I had hoped that the circumstances were going to be different being that the super bowl was only just one week away.

Within minutes of having all those thoughts, Joey pulls up to the front of my cell. He seemed quite enthusiastic as he said, “I’m going to take care of you, I’m going to set you up with the best job in the prison, it’s a porter job. In a couple of days, if not sooner, I’m going to have you down on the bottom tier with myself and the other porters.”

I wanted to tell Joey what I almost told the sergeant, but again I decided to keep my mouth shut and see what was going on. Joey then graciously offered to give me anything that I might need, but I was fortunate to have everything that you could want in my property bags that I had just received.

Joey then said, “I’ll be back shortly, in the meantime, only unpack your necessities, I hope to have you moved real soon, there is an open cell down here by me.”

Shortly after time passed, Joey was back, this time with another inmate that introduced himself as J.R. Joey then said, “He’s the clerk for lower F block, he’s kind of the head of the porters, he’s very respected amongst the C.O.’s.” J.R. laughed and said to Joey, “Thanks for the kind words.” J.R. then said to me, “The sergeant that overlooks this block has left for the day, when he comes in tomorrow I’m almost certain that I can have you moved down to our tier and also get you the porter job.”

When he said that, it dawned on me what the sergeant said to me when I first came in, so I said to J.R., “The sergeant that interviewed me earlier said something about wanting me on lower F close to him, that he had light dusting for me.”

When both J.R. and Joey heard that they both said, “That’s it, you’re in, you have the job.” Joey then said, “Are you sure that’s what the sergeant said to you?” I replied, “Yeah. I didn’t really know what he was talking about, I was ready to tell him I don’t work, but then decided to keep my mouth shut.”

J.R. then said, “The sergeant that interviewed you is the sergeant I was talking about, so now I would say instead of you having a 99 percent chance of getting the job, I could tell you that you’re guaranteed to get it now based on what the sergeant told you.”

J.R. was a tall good looking guy with a good built, I would say he was about six two. After hearing his last name, I knew he was of German decent. After talking to him briefly, he told me he was fifty and has been incarcerated for the last 20 years. I was happy to hear when he told me that he’s going home next year.

J.R. then asked me what Joey had asked me earlier, “Do you need anything?” I told him that I’m good, but I really appreciate the offer. I then said to J.R., “I’m a little blown out over hearing that it’s going to take a month before I can get my TV, I was really hoping that I was going to be able to watch the super bowl next week.”

J.R. responded, “Don’t worry, we’re going to make you comfortable,” as he was walking away. I then said to Joey, “He seems like a really good guy.” I then told Joey that I couldn’t thank him enough for what he had done, and how much I appreciated him looking out for me. Joey then said in that Italian Brooklyn accent, “Don’t worry about nothing, I’ll see you tomorrow morning, then will get you moved by us,” and then he left.

I then laid down on my bunk bed and thought to myself, “Wow, maybe after meeting Joey and J.R. things here might turn out ok, maybe I made the right decision.” Shortly after having those thoughts, J.R. pulled up to my cell and the gate door cracks open and J.R. walks into my cell holding a 13-inch color TV and cable wiring wrapped around his neck.

Just seconds later Joey comes walking into the cell holding these large heavy duty plastic square containers. Right behind him was another guy holding two more of those square containers. That other guy turned out to be one of the porters in the crew, he called himself L.A.

I then said to J.R., “What’s going on?” J.R. replied, “I know how bad you want to watch TV, that’s the only reason you put in a transfer to here. I’m going to let you borrow my TV until you get yours, so now you will be able to watch the super bowl.”

I replied, “As unbelievable as this is, I can’t except it, I can’t impose on you like this, you have already been so kind to me.” J.R.’s response was, “I insist, I rarely have time to watch TV lately, I’m so busy doing other things. You will be doing me a favor, I will have no distractions for the next month, that will give me the opportunity to get my important work completed.”

The way J.R. put it to me, he had convinced me to accept, so the guys then started putting the containers in my cell like it was furniture. They put two of the containers, one on top of the other, that became my TV stand.

The other two I did the same and used them as both a desk and a table. The other great thing about those containers were that they were used for storage for my clothes and my food.

Joey then said, “Don’t get too comfortable, we’re moving you down by us tomorrow, then you could really get set up.” After they left, I said to myself as I was lying on my bed watching color TV, “How could I be so lucky, how could all this happen to me within only the first hour that I’m here.” All I could say to myself is that it’s part of my destiny.

When morning came, just as Joey said, when I returned from the chow hall after having breakfast, the entire crew of porters came to my cell and started moving all of my property to the lower tier to a porter cell. Within a matter of minutes, I was in my new cell, which happened to be the first cell on the bottom tier. I then started to arrange everything in my cell. After I had completed organizing my cell to my liking, is when I first noticed that my cell gate door was open.

I nervously decided to take a few steps outside the cell. I then turned to my right and took another few steps that put me in front of my new neighbors’ cell. To my surprise his cell gate door was open also. As I looked in I saw this young man sitting at the side of his bed doing some writing. I called over to him and said, “Pardon me.” Before I could say another word, he invited me into his cell. He then introduced himself to me, he said, “I’m Johnny Guica, you must be the new porter, welcome aboard.”

After introducing myself, the first thing I said to him was, “What the hell is going on here, they don’t lock the porter cells?” The young man started to laugh as he said, “Hell no, you didn’t know that, that’s one of the perks of being a porter, most of the time we are let out of our cells. All the porters are allowed to hang out in our little area.” I responded by saying, “Wow, maybe I made the right decision to take this job.” Guica responded, “This is the best job in this prison.” As we continued to talk, I found out that he was of half Italian and half Irish decent.

John was an average height, slim but muscular, he was a good-looking guy that surprised me when he said he was thirty years old. He didn’t look a day over twenty-one to me with his baby face. John told me that he has been in prison for the last ten years serving a prison sentence of 25 to life. From the first day I met him, he proclaimed his innocence.

After our brief conversation, Joey and J.R. came over to us, Joey then said, “Oh good, you met Guica.” J.R. then said, “Doc come with me, I want to introduce you to the rest of the porters.”

The first cell that we went to, I was introduced to a guy named Sessa, he was a dark skin Puerto Rican, of average weight and height with an afro. He was 49 years old and has spent 33 years behind bars.

The next cell we went to was a 32-year-old white guy, I recognized him from the night before. He was the other guy that helped Joey bring me those containers. L.A., that’s what he called himself rather than Larry, he was of polish decent. He was also of average height and weight and also muscular like all the rest.

The next guy I met was Frazier, he called himself G.T. G.T. was of African descent, 32 years of age, average height and slim, but surprisingly strong for his size.

Then there was Mo, he was a little less than average in height, well built, 39-year-old Dominican serving a seventy-five-year sentence.

The next guy was a 29-year-old bald headed Jamaican that called himself Rome. He also was of average height and well built. He was serving a long prison sentence in which he has already had put in 10 years.

The last porter was Paulie, he was kind of on the short side in height, but well built. He was a 44 year-old and was of Puerto Rican decent. He was serving a 35-year prison bid in which he had already put in 23 years of that sentence.

So that was the porter crew that I became part of. By the time J.R. had introduced me to all the porters, it was now time for all the porters to start their work. No officer had given me any assignment so I hung out and followed Joey around. I offered to help Joey but he just kept on saying, “Relax, don’t worry” as he was sweeping and mopping the floors. A few times during the couple of hours in the morning that the porters do their brunt of the work, Joey asked me to change a few plastic liners in the trash cans.

The next few days went the same as the first, I did really nothing but hang out with the guys. Whenever I offered to help any of them, they all responded in the same way, “Just relax and hang out, you don’t have to do any work.” I’m sure that J.R., who most likely had something to do with each one of them getting the job, might have had an influence on them looking out for me along with Joey.

The more love and respect that the porters showed me, I wanted to give back by doing little things. One of the porter jobs was to carry the property of inmates in a draft bag. The porters would never let me carry those bags, showing respect for my age. At first I would argue with them that I could and want to do it, but then I stopped for a reason. I could see that they were getting a good feeling about themselves, by showing an older man, (that could be their father or even grandfather) the respect that they were showing.

The first few days that I was a porter there was not really an officer looking over the shoulders of the porters. Each porter had a responsibility and took care of his job without any supervision by an officer.

From the first day on the job I noticed that J.R. was unofficially the foreman of the porters. He was the clerk on our block, all the officers respected him and all the porters liked him. So, it seemed like there was never a problem when J.R. directed one of the porters to do something.

Then after those first few days passed there was a new officer assigned to our cell block, his name was Mr. Bruce. He was a short stocky man with a big belly. He looked to be in his mid-fifties with a big busy gray beard and glasses. It took some time before I noticed, until he took off his cap, that I saw he was bold. Now that I think of it, if he put on a red cotton outfit he would look like Santa Claus.

This officer started taking an immediate role in what the porters were doing. I would say that I was the first porter that he put to the test. He started breaking my balls on how I had the bed sheet hanging from the bars. The custom in prison is that the inmate would put up some kind of a curtain when they had to sit on the toilet to relieve themselves.

From the first time I responded to him, I did it in an extremely respectful manner, I wanted him to know that I was not a wise-ass. It turned out that each time I tried to correct how I was doing the bed sheet to use for a curtain, I was still doing it wrong. Each time he came back and corrected me, I made sure that I was going out of my way to show respect. I believe for that reason is why he had patience with me until I finally got it right.

When Officer Bruce first came on to the block, it was not just me but all the porters that he put to the test. Aside from looking over all the porter’s shoulders as they were doing their work, he also was being picky about how things were in their cell.

My insight was telling me that he was breaking balls to see who could follow orders without questioning him. What I mean by breaking balls was that he was making every porter follow every little rule, for example, say a porter, as he was doing his work, had part of his shirt come outside his pants, he would have the porter stop what he was doing to tuck his shirt into his pants. That could be quite aggravating when you’re in the middle of doing your work. Most officers in this situation, when they see an inmate working hard doing their job would not enforce such a trivial rule.

I was able to see Mr. Bruce’s motive right away, he wanted to see who was able to take orders, regardless of the situation, like I said, he was putting us to the test. The first job that was given personally to myself was by Mr. Bruce. He asked me to clean the bars on the bubble. The bubble was the cage that was the central headquarters to the block. That was always secure with at least one officer, in that cage was the panels that controlled each separate lever for any or all that would open the cells on the block.

The only other job that was specifically given to me was to get a spray bottle of cleaner and a rag to wipe the ledges along the tier of the company. Being that they were the only two details that were given to me, I took it upon my own to start filling the water buckets on my company that had to be filled for the inmates. I also made myself the garbage man, I would empty the trash cans and put the new plastic liners in them. I also made myself part of the garbage detail who took the garbage outside. That I really enjoyed because it would be the only time that I would get to go outside and enjoy the fresh air.

That of course was because of my own choosing. I did have the option to go outside in the yard for recreation each day, but because of being busy with my own personal work, and also because I was very comfortable where I was at, I chose not to go outside to the yard. I had made plans in my mind that the first couple of weeks I wasn’t going to worry about getting into my personal work, which at the time consisted of going over the first draft that I completed of my manuscript for my third book.

My thinking was that I was also going to wait till I got situated before I would look for young inmates to help. My writing, mentoring young inmates, and working out was my entire time spent at Auburn. Now things were going to be different, I was going to be out of my cell, or at least my sliding gate door was going to be open from morning, afternoon, and part of the evening. That would give the porters the option to be outside their cell hanging out in a small area when they’re not working. That was a big change from Auburn, where I was locked up in my cell 23 hours a day. Along with that big change, was also that now I had a TV and I had already mentioned how much I enjoyed watching the boob tube. So, in my mind I knew I was going to have to work things out eventually so I could set up a schedule that would coincide with my work and goals. My strong beliefs are that destiny has sent me here to prison for a purpose. My insight tell me that it is to do my writing and to also save some young men’s lives who have never really had a fair chance in life up until now because of uncontrollable circumstances along with their environment.

So that was my immediate plans, just to spend my time getting adjusted to my new surroundings. It was also a good opportunity to get to know the porters those first couple of weeks. At first most of my time was spent with Joey and J.R., but then after a few days I would be hanging with all the porters.

As the days passed by those first few weeks it seemed like it was not just myself that was trying to get adjusted to my new environment, but all the porters because of the arrival of Mr. Bruce to the block. He was on top of every little thing that the porters did, and I could tell that before he came the porters didn’t have that problem, they would just go about doing their job and the other officers didn’t bother them. It appeared to me that the other officers felt that if the porters were doing their job and everything was getting done, and there were no fights or porters getting in trouble, they were fine with not ragging the porters.

Mr. Bruce saw it different, he went strictly by the book with every little detail. All the porters were becoming very unhappy, especially J.R. Until the time that Mr. Bruce arrived, J.R., who I already mentioned was the inmate clerk, looked out to make sure that all the work was being done by the porters. The officers in the block all knew that, and were fine with it. Those first few weeks when Mr. Bruce would come to break my balls, I knew he was putting me to the test, he wanted to see if I was a smart ass that couldn’t take orders. How I dealt with it was to let him know that I knew he was the boss and that I’m in his house and it’s his rules. If I saw something that was red and he said that it was green, I would let him know that as far as I was concerned it was green. I treated him with the utmost respect by either addressing him as Sir or Mr. Bruce.

To motivate myself to have the discipline to pass the test that Mr. Bruce was putting me through, I would think of my son, Marcus, and all the discipline that it took for him to be a West Point Cadet. I would then think how he became a Special Force Ranger in the Army after graduating West Point before he retired as a Captain. I would think how many times that my son had to show strength and discipline to have achieved what he had accomplished. Those were the thoughts that had given me the strength to show the discipline that I needed. I said to myself, “If my son was able to do it, then why shouldn’t his father.”

As I started to notice that all the other porters were becoming angry and upset over the way Mr. Bruce was always looking over their shoulders and breaking their balls. Even J.R. was becoming affected with the way that the new officer was handling things on the block. Even though I was the new guy amongst the porters, I tried to calm them down. I told them that Mr. Bruce is just testing them, just stay disciplined and do whatever he says without question, and eventually things will change for the better. Why blow a great job, be smart and use your head. I would tell them that the prison is filled with all sorts of tough guys, but not so many smart guys. So, I need you to be a tough guy by being a smart guy.

I really started to get concerned when I started to see the anger in J.R. escalating. In the short time I was here, I was able to see how strong J.R.’s connections were with all the officers in the block, not to mention his connection with Sergeant Sweeny.

Nevertheless, my insights told me that J.R. should not buck heads with Mr. Bruce, if push came to shove, there is no way that a Sergeant is going to take the side of an inmate over an officer. I didn’t think it was my place to express this to J.R. being that I had only known him a short time. So, I went to Joey and told him how I felt. I said Joe, I’m telling you, I hope that J.R. doesn’t lose his head with Mr. Bruce, I hope he realizes that if he goes to battle with him there is no way that he has a chance to win.

Things continued to brew for another week between J.R. and Mr. Bruce until it finally boiled over into a verbal confrontation. That was J.R.’s big mistake and the inevitable happened, J.R. was fired. None of the other porters could believe it, despite my warning them that if J.R. didn’t watch it, he’s going to get fired. After that happened, I was angry, I told Joey that I should have warned J.R. myself, something tells me that he would have listened to me.

In the short time that I was here, I recognized that this was the only game in town. I saw that there were so many perks to this job that were not allotted to the other inmates. I would say the most important perk, at least to me, was the telephone. The normal procedure for inmates who wish to use the phone is to sign up for rec which is outside. Then you have to sign up for the phone list and then wait about an hour before you’re called to use the phone.

Here in Upstate New York where Clinton Prison is located in the small village of Dannemora, which is only an hour car ride from the Canadian border, it’s cold eight months of the year, maybe that’s the reason that they have given this area the name of, “Little Siberia.”

Another real important perk is the shower; the lower F porters have the privilege of being able to shower every day with the convenience of having four private shower stalls just ten feet away. I could go on and on with the perks of the job, but I’ll slowly be mentioning them as I go along with my story.

So now as I already mentioned, I’m going to take some time and get to know the porters and also get familiar with my new surroundings before I get back to my personal work, being my writing and mentoring the young inmates.

I found it funny when I first started to have one on one conversations with each of the porters. I have no doubt that they all had me portrayed as some big-time mobster. I guess that’s understandable when they saw how I got the job and then to hear many different mafia innuendoes coming from the correctional officers.

I would say that it only took one conversation with a porter before they were confused where I was coming from. I believe that it was because I would express some of my philosophies on life and my interest in mentoring the young inmates. I guess they didn’t expect to have those kinds of subjects brought up from me.

After a couple of Sundays had passed, the following Sunday, early in the morning, Joey had talked me into signing up to go to church. He said, “You have to come see this church, it’s a beautiful building standing all by itself in the open area of the prison property.” He then went on to say that the infamous big time mafia boss of years past, Charles “Lucky’ Luciano, was the main financial contributor for having that church built. He had spent some time here in the early forties as a prisoner. Although I have always been a church goer most of my life, for the entire time that I spent at Auburn, I hadn’t attended a single church service. The reason for that was because during the entire duration of my stay at Auburn was spent on writing my second manuscript, “Mysteries and Beliefs.”

The meat and potatoes of that subject matter is the question, where did we come from, and where are we going when we die, if anywhere? So, I was dealing with God, Jesus Christ, and many of the holy men from past history, many hours, 7 days a week, for the past 13 months. That was the reason I felt I needed a blow from attending any church service at that time.

As Joey and I had walked out of our housing building and towards the church, my first glance at that building had me in total amazement. The architectural design was the same as all the churches I was used to seeing in North Jersey. I couldn’t help to especially notice its beautiful steeple and bell. When I first walked into the church I was in awe of its beauty. I had gotten the chills throughout my body when I immediately noticed the resemblance of my hometown church in Lyndhurst, New Jersey. I became teary eyed and felt a lump in my throat that made it hard to swallow when I started to reminisce of all the intimate moments I had in my hometown church. I then began to wonder if destiny would ever have me enter those doors again.

After church services were over, when we arrived back to our block, to my surprise the other porters cooked us an outstanding meal. The black porters cooked fried chicken and collard greens, the Hispanic guys made a rice dish with beans and a few different kinds of seafood from the can. The Italian kid, Johnny Guica, made a pasta dish with a really nice Italian gravy. I had just taught him the week before how to make it, and I would say he nailed it on his first try. Now what we did was all share our different ethnic dishes with each other.

That was another additional perk of being a reception porter. We had different utensils like pots and pans, two double burner hot plates, a toaster and a large two-gallon hot pot that had hot water available all the time. We also had the slop sink close by for washing our hands and cleaning all the cooking utensils. It might not seem like a big deal, but being in a maximum prison, it’s a really big deal.

When we were all finished with our meal is when the incident alarm went off, I guess you could say that we were lucky that it didn’t go off while the porters were cooking the food. When that alarm goes off you have to immediately drop everything you’re doing and lock yourself into your cell. If you’re in the process of doing something that is outside your block, you then have to immediately go to the nearest wall and then put your hands over your head and against the wall. God only knows how long you have to stay that way, depending on the severity of the incident. Usually if it’s just two guys fighting without weapons, it doesn’t take long. When the incident involves a group of inmates, there is no telling how long it could be before there’s clearance. The way it turned out since I’ve been here, the incident alarm goes off quite often, sometimes twice a day. There’s times when it could be for as many as 7 to 10 days in a row, before, finally you may then get a break in the action for a week. The only other prison that I’m able to compare that situation with is Auburn prison, and although Auburn is a tough disciplinary prison like Clinton, I would have to say that the alarm goes off considerable more at Clinton, at least during my stay here so far.

So, although there are many fights that take place in all the blocks throughout the prison since I’ve been here, there has not been one single fight amongst the porters. I would like to think that I’m a large reason for that. I would like to think that was the reason why when I first arrived here that the sergeant wanted to put me here. I would like to think that I influenced the porters to feel like we are a family, and that we have to respect one another at all times. When we have differences, I encourage us to sit down and talk about them and work them out, rather than to not think and react with violence.

Now that J.R. was gone, he was replaced with Frazier, who we call G.T., to be the porter clerk. I must say that he was a good choice for the job. He was smart, acted like a gentleman, didn’t mind doing all the extra work that J.R. did, and he was well liked by all the other porters. When J.R. first got fired the officers wanted me to take the job, they figured that because of my age I would be a perfect fit to do all the paper work that being the clerk entails. I started to panic, I thought to myself, I’m so busy doing my writing, I can’t allow myself to have any more distractions than I already have with the TV. I started to reflect back to my beliefs that destiny has brought me here to do my writing along with giving hope, encouragement, and wisdom to the young inmates.

The way that situation turned out, was that I was able to express to Mr. Bruce how that job would interfere with my writing. He was understandable enough to let me slide.

Again, I will repeat that it’s not mandatory for me to have to work because of my age, but by working, especially with this job, I’m able to reap all the benefits that come along with this job. Another important point that I came to realize is that by having this job I’m able to be out of my cell walking around, which is great exercise for a man my age, rather than to be locked-up all the time in my cell.

Now the time has come where I have adjusted to the job, my new surroundings and getting to know my fellow co-workers. So now I’m able to get back to my work, which consists of helping my lawyer who is working on my appeal, getting back to finishing the writing of my third book, “The Godfather of Souls,” which I have been working on at Auburn, and last but not least, trying to help many of the young inmates deal with their circumstances.

It only took a short time before the other porters began to think I’m nuts for trying to help the inmates on our block. They would say, “Doc, you’re wasting your time, there’s no help for these low lives and losers.” The porters would say, “They’re only listening to you so they could try and get something from you.” They would say that all the inmates in this prison are unreachable. None of the negativity that the porters would express to me would not even come close to discouraging me from my beliefs, and that is that destiny has brought me here to help change a few of their lives.

To my surprise, I was in awe to see how much talent and intellect so many of these young inmates displayed. Although my third book, “The Godfather of Souls,” was not completed, I was still working on it when I arrived at Clinton, I would let many of the young inmates read it. The reason is because it was a story about how this old man had mentored this young inmate, and was showing him the way to take advantage of a bad situation and turn it into a good one. Showing that there can be a way to spend his time working on being whatever he inspires to be when he’s released. I found, that by first letting them read my manuscript that was on the subject matter of what I was trying to convey, I was saving a lot of my time when I chose a young inmate to try and help.

Even though my third book hadn’t been completed on paper, it had already been completed in my mind. During my early time at Clinton I would wonder what my fourth book was going to be about. I would even get nervous pondering if there was a fourth book in me. Why I had such a concern about that, is because my strong belief is that I have been inspired to be a writer in the twilight of my life, despite having no literary talent, and only reading three books in their entirety throughout my life. So, in order for me to show myself that it is my destiny to continue my writing after I complete my third book, there will have to be an event that will occur that will inspire me to write about it, and I will call it destiny.

One day after his work was finished the porter, Sessa, came into my cell, he’s the guy that has spent the last thirty-three years in prison. He was only seventeen when he first started his bid, I immediately had an interest in him just knowing that he had spent all that time in prison. He walked into my cell holding my first book in his hands, as he began to lay the book onto my bed, he said, “You know, I believe the story you told that had inspired you to write that book.” Ironically, he was the last of the porters to read that book. I believe at first, when he heard from the other porters that it was not a mob book, he initially lost interest in wanting to read it. I remember what his first question was to me that day, he asked, “What was your second book all about?”

I responded, “The meat and potatoes of my second book is the mystery of where did we come from and where are we going when we die, if anywhere?” I set out to prove that I know the answer based on occurrences that took place in my life, which was the reason that I was inspired to write my first book. I asked the reader to take the journey with me to prove the answer. Being that the subject matter becomes quite deep at times, when your brains are ready to explode out of your ears is when I lighten it up with some funny stories. I use the history of man, the history of religion, the history of science, the great intellectual minds of mankind, and I even let the atheist give their point of view. When a friend of mine, Sam Stellatella, my old high school football coach, became aware that I was writing about atheists at that time, he discovered this funny story about atheist on the computer and decided to send it to me. After reading it, I felt it was funny, entertaining, and a perfect fit to put into my manuscript at that moment. I call it destiny how he sent that story right at the time that I felt I needed to lighten it up a bit.

Sessa then said to me, “Do you remember the story?” I responded, “I think I could remember to tell it correctly.” After putting it in my second manuscript, I have told that story to a few inmates. Sessa eagerly said, “Let’s hear it, tell it to me.” I replied, “Ok, I’ll give it a shot.”

An atheist was walking through the woods as he was saying to himself, what majestic trees, what a powerful river, what beautiful animals. As he was walking alongside a pathway there was a rustling in the bushes behind him. He turned to look, he saw a seven-foot bear charge towards him. He ran as fast as he could until he tripped and fell on the ground. He rolled over to pick himself up but saw that the bear was right on top of him, reaching for him with the left paw and raising his right paw to strike him. At that instant the atheist cried out, “Oh my God!” Time stopped, the bear froze, the forest became silent, as a bright light shined upon the man. A voice came out of the sky and said, “You deny my existence for all these years, teach others that I do not exist, and even credit creation to a cosmic accident.” “Do you expect me now to help you out of this predicament?” The voice then said, “Am I to count you as a believer?” The atheist looked directly into the light and said, “It would be hypocritical of me to suddenly ask you to treat me as a Christian now, but perhaps you could make the BEAR a Christian?”

“Very well,” said the voice. The light went out, the sounds of the forest resumed, and the bear dropped his right paw. The bear then brought both paws together, bowed his head and spoke, “Lord bless this food, which I am about to receive, from thy bounty, through Christ our Lord, Amen.”

Immediately after I said the word Amen, Sessa busted out with laughter, simultaneously Johnny Guica was walking into my cell hysterically laughing. Guica then said, “I overheard the story you told from my cell, that was a good one.” I replied to the both of them, “It gives me great pleasure to see you both with laughter.”

Guica returned to his cell to get back to doing his legal work, and I continued my conversation with Sessa. I was quite curious to know how he had done his time for thirty-three years and how he has survived prison life to this point. He told me that the first ten years was wild, he was young and getting into a lot of trouble with gang related shit. He also talked about a few serious life and death confrontations that he got into throughout the years. I was really surprised when he told me that he had a few attempted escapes on his record.

I recollect a number of inmates at Auburn telling me that they had attempted at least one escape also. That was something that had really puzzled me, to think that anyone could really think that in today’s times that they could successfully pull off a modern-day prison break. I regret that along with those inmates at Auburn, I also never questioned Sessa on any of the details of their attempted escapes.

As the early months of my stay at Clinton were passing by, I had seen Mr. Bruce was no longer breaking my balls like in the beginning. I assumed that I passed his test, that I showed him that I wasn’t a smart ass, and that I showed him the proper respect. He also started to notice that by me being by far the oldest porter, that I was spending time trying to give the porters good advice about staying out of trouble. He also noticed that I would spend time trying to give good advice to the young inmates as they arrived on our company.

Normally he would not allow us porters to pull up to a cell and start talking to an inmate, but I believe he had a blind eye to me knowing that I was not doing anything illegal, but in fact, trying to encourage them to stay out of trouble and spend their time in self-improvement. This was so important to me that I was able to spend my spare time in this manner not only because it was my strong belief that this is why destiny has brought me here, but also because I wasn’t about doing gossip or caring about all the other bullshit that goes on in prison.

Enough time had gone by that I now started to realize I had to get back focused to my writing. I needed to complete the book that I was working on at the moment, “The Godfather of Souls.” For the first time since I’ve been in prison, because of being a porter, I see that I have many distractions. It’s not that I’m complaining because I do realize all the perks that come with this job that I have, it’s just that I have to find a way to not have distractions get in the way of my writing. When I became aware to myself that there were numerous times that I was about to start my writing and then one of the porters would walk into my cell to want to talk, I realized that I had to come up with a solution. I knew that I would never want to blow off anyone that wanted to talk to me, so that is when I decided that I was going to do my writing in the middle of the night. When I thought how quiet it was when I would get up in the middle of the night to go pee, that I could hear a pin drop, is when I realized that would be the solution.


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